Spotlight on Joanne Bekis
At Spotlight, we got the opportunity to talk to Joanne Bekis Chief Operating Officer at Pinnacle Wellbeing Services. We chatted about overcoming challenges such as ill-health, the importance of a mentor and her advice.
I’ve worked for many years in the Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction Sector, in roles such as Production Lead, Buying, Apprenticeships, Business Advisor as a Change Management Consultant and now as Chief Operating Officer.
I never had a fixed plan on what I wanted to do and that is OK. The career chose me through circumstances or as I like to think I’m exactly where I need to be. I have been approached on several occasions, for example, my break in the FE education sector came as one of my largest clients/members was a College at the time setting up a new arm of their organisation. I have applied for roles to further my career but in my last role, I was introduced again by a client and today I’m COO through a meeting of the minds on LinkedIn.
The biggest challenge I faced is health, unfortunately, I suffered serious ill-health in my mid 20’s (Endometriosis), but blessed with an amazing female leader at College, she ensured the safety of my role and allowed me the time I needed to recover. I still see Christine now and she had a huge impact on my life. So at a young age, I learned not to take your health for granted, if we do not have our health we have nothing, therefore my success has been defined by my very personal journey and appreciation of health and well-being. I think this has led me to become both a STEM ambassador and Mental Health First Aider MHFA England. And currently, I’m taking my next step to becoming an MHFA England Instructor.
There wasn’t much information available about my illness at the time, it is a condition that affects many women, 10% of women will suffer from this condition, but still, Doctors are unsure why this happens, I do know my mum and Grandma also suffered so possibly hereditary for me. It affects many women and younger women and like me, it can be a condition that affects fertility and in my case the need to have both my ovaries removed at the age of 30 yrs. Whilst a very personal and difficult journey, it massively impacted on my career as I was often in and out of the hospital. And had multiple surgeries to try and correct this condition, I was on first-name terms with my Gynaecologists PA.
At times life felt impossible, and being honest I’ve cried thousands of tears in pain and in frustration, but I’m tenacious and I didn’t want my ill health to define me, I wanted to choose how my life and career would turn out. So, I was determined to ensure this happened, it takes strength and persistence and a good support network. I have been blessed in many other ways. And people's support is so important. It is a real test of the strength of character.
Drive and determination
A general love of life, the outdoors and nature with a dash of sheer bloody-mindedness not to ever give in or give up no matter what. Either that or I’m as stubborn as a mule. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to always be kind, I’ve met so many poor unkind and uncaring leaders and I always felt no matter what was thrown my way, I’ll never be like them. In a world where you can be anything, be kind. It’s ok not to have a big career mapped out, sometimes going with the flow is equally rewarding and exciting. We always have a choice, the choice to change your career path.
To anyone looking to start a business I would say go for it, no one ever said it would be easy but it could be hugely rewarding, profitable and you will be in the driving seat of your own life. I wish I’d started a business before leaving home and buying my first home, once on the property ladder you become a slave to your mortgage. But also be free and travel, when travel allows, you learn so much from travelling the world.
The best advice I’ve been given is to always do your best, even if your efforts aren’t good enough, at least you know you did your best. My late father used to say this to me as a young woman and at a time when I felt I was failing in my Apprenticeship. Find a good mentor and if you work for someone, look to work for an organisation who has a future leaders programme in place, the earlier you start the better.
Not everyone will be on the same page as you, they may not be natural leaders, they may be great managers but managers aren’t always respected, great leaders are to be admired and with great leaders, you find they have followers. Always aim for person-centred approaches and being a respected individual. And let the haters hate, if someone doesn’t like you, that’s none of your business, it's actually their issue, leave it with them, but do not get drawn into negativity as it can be consuming.
I think there is and there isn’t a formula for success it’s about the individual. Take education, for example, Lord Sugar tested this theory on The Apprentice, on one series he took half practical not educated and half fully educated to Bsc Hons and both halves performed very similarly. Yes, I think it’s a natural ability based on you as an individual and a ‘can-do attitude and aptitude’. So, think positive, be resilient and smile, being confident has got me through many doors.
I think right now young people need to learn the art of communication, mainly oral communication. Social media is robbing young lives of vital skills in the ability to start a conversation, hold a conversation or join a conversation. Use the like icon less, comment more and engage on a variety of levels not just on social media. Don’t become a keyboard warrior, don’t forget to open your mouth.
Coping during COVID
Last year I was placed on furlough, unfortunately, this put me at risk of redundancy 5 months later, this turned out to be a really positive experience as this gave me a real opportunity to spread my wings and reconnect with the business world and review what I wanted to do. I was made redundant in July 2020 and I didn’t opt to apply for another role (redeployment). That same week I stepped into my new role as an Associate with Pinnacle Wellbeing Services, but one short week later I was discussing with the CEO becoming COO! Wow, how things can change on the turn of a penny. Or as the saying goes as one door closes another one opens.
I really enjoy agile and flexible working patterns but it isn’t for everyone. Routine is always key to supporting coping strategies and as we all have a 66-day habit cycle we can form new habits at any time. For me, I accepted the situation of Covid early and embraced the change. I quite like working remotely from home, for two reasons 1. It reminds me I’m lucky I have a home 2. It also means I have a job. Equally, if people desire to return to office environments because they prefer people interaction that is what I feel people should do, my ideal solution would be a hybrid mix of the two. Pinnacle’s clients range in size, location and sector, we deliver across four main pillars;
Impact and Performance
Brave New World (transformational change)
One of my last pieces of work I delivered a workshop to 16 HR leads around the world from a Global Pharmaceutical Company, raising Mental Health Awareness and looking at their current wellbeing framework, what I love about this role is every day is so different, every client has a unique need and I get to make a real difference with helping leaders and their teams improve their wellbeing.